Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mucho Renaissance

Whenever I didn't have to be someplace dutiful at the library conference in Washington DC (learning about the latest trends in book theft, for example) I would find myself at the National Gallery of Art. The one day when I might have gone to the Phillips Collection instead (remembering it fondly from a visit twenty years ago) it turned out to be closed. But I cannot say that I minded very much. I could spend a month at the National Gallery and not even begin to feel sated. Our robber barons on the West Coast came along too late (and also, it could be argued, lacked the taste) to grab anywhere near the same quality or quantity of European cultural loot, and California museums consequently have nowhere near this richness and depth.

Carved Latin inscription (above) translates as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (considered in this context as attributes of Jesus Christ, needless to say). The revival of Roman letter-carving would make the Renaissance seem worthwhile even if that had been the only thing it accomplished.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crepuscular DC

To vary the hotel-window format, I zoomed in on a few facades a block away. They are prettier from this distance than up close, if my memory of that one early-morning walk several days ago is trustworthy. The haze across the background is smog, naturally. Temperatures are over 100. The heavy humid air does not move.

My final visit to the National Gallery of Art. I stood in the walnut paneled Vermeer room completely alone for a stretch of many minutes with five Vermeers (three of them universally accepted as authentic). The museum hides this room away at the end of a maze and does not point toward it with special signs (as they do for their Da Vinci).

People mostly look tired inside this vast museum. The National Gallery is good about providing sofas at regular intervals.

Joseph Mallord William Turner
detail of Mortlake Terrace, 1827

Jean Marc Nattier
detail of Madame Le Fèvre de Caumartin as Hebe, 1753

Fernand Léger
detail of Animated Landscape, 1921

Pierre Bonnard
detail of Work Table, 1926/1937

Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio
detail of Alexander the Great, c. 1483-1485

Jean-Antoine Houdon
detail of Diana, 1778

Benozzo Gozzoli
detail of
The Feast of Herod and the Beheading of John the Baptist 1461-1462

Follower of Titian
detail of Alessandro Alberti with a Page, mid-16th century

Agnolo Bronzino
detail of A Young Woman and Her Little Boy, c. 1540

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
detail of Madame Moitessier, 1851

Circle of Andrea del Verrocchio
detail of A Lady, 1475/1485

Giovanni Cariani
detail of A Concert, c. 1518-1520

Louis-Leopold Boilly
detail of A Painter's Studio, c. 1800